A comedy album typically offers fans an opportunity to enjoy a stand-up set without interruption by hecklers or a table of yammering morons.
Comics can cut out the moments that didn't go as planned before the CD or MP3 goes to press, or have the hecklers removed during the recording, something that comedian Aaron Aryanpur says he didn't know he could do until after he walked offstage the night he recorded his new Stand Up! Records album, In Spite Of.
Aryanpur recorded the show at Hyena's Comedy Nightclub, where the mics and video cameras picked up a bizarre moment of comedy club chaos that began with a group of ladies near the front of the stage talking during the comedian's set, which is not an extraordinary occurrence.
"It was supposed to be a fun night and a great show but there were these ladies who were clearly not there for me," Aryanpur says. "They were just close enough where I could hear them almost the entire night. We don't pick it up on the mic but by the halfway point [of the show], the wheels just come flying off."
The women continued to talk until another woman fell flat on her face right in front of the stage. The whole set came to a crashing halt as Aryanpur and the people around her checked to make sure she was OK.
Aryanpur could have told the editor to cut that chunk of the show out and get back to the material he planned to present, but he decided to leave it
"That felt the closest to my mind, issues where you're trying to control the situation and you can't, and you either roll with it or you wither away and die," Aryanpur says. "I rolled with it pretty good. There is no such thing as perfection and being able to include something like that, that spits in the face of perfection, I thought was important really to keep in."
That philosophy is the foundation of Aryanpur's act, from his stage presence to his stories about the way his wife orders at restaurants, stressful family vacations and the passing of a loved one.
All of the best comedians have a talent for rolling with chaos. Aryanpur learned to do it on- and off-stage in 2002, when he walked into a stand-up comedy class at Addison Improv and gave his first performance to a crowd of supportive friends and family.
Aryanpur recalls his first show "felt great" but says subsequent appearances at open mic shows in Dallas, a city that at the time didn't have much of a comedy scene, taught him the importance of developing a thick skin.
"When you go from a very welcoming environment to just being out on your own ... open mics have some hostile crowds sometimes and that's what it was like for the first two years," Aryanpur says.
However, the fact that Dallas wasn't a big comedy town yet also meant there were no stakes to sweat over when he was standing behind a microphone in a coffee bar on a weeknight.
"It was fun," Aryanpur says. "You [learn this] when you're talking to other people and ... visiting other comedy scenes ... you're not trying to get discovered. You're not trying to find a gimmick. You're just trying to be funny. I was also very fortunate to come in at a time when a lot of people who I really respected also started. We've all kind of grown up together and kept each other in check and leaned on each other for help with writing or networking or booking."
But scouts and agents eventually made their way to Dallas thanks to our proximity to Austin, known for its thriving entertainment industry, and the rise of national comedy showcases like Last Comic Standing. Aryanpur scored semifinalist spots in comedy competitions on NBC and Comedy Central, appeared on the Fox comedy showcase Laughs and went on to win the Funniest Comic in Texas competition in 2012.
But even though he enjoys the newfound attention, Aryanpur still cherishes his formative years in Dallas. "You could go up and experiment, try new material, and not worry if it didn't hit quite right," he says.
Aryanpur says that unlike some comedians who think they need to create a character or a unique persona to make it, he's always preferred to be himself and use his act to talk about whatever's going on in his life.
"I think you do get caught up with that early on, that you do need a gimmick or a hook to set yourself apart," Aryanpur says. "I realized that a lot of the advice I've gotten is, when you stop doing an impression of what you think a stand-up comedian is and start talking authentically about what your experience is, that's when things change."
This approach has not only helped him become a successful working comedian, but it's also helped him through some difficult moments in his personal life, such as when his father, Sam, died in April after a sudden illness. Aryanpur says his father was part of his act from the very beginning of his career but writing about his death helped him cope with it better than clinical therapy.
"He was a pretty influential force on me and he ended up getting really sick really quickly, and I ended up writing a lot about that," he says. "It'll make its way to an album eventually but it's about taking what I'm going through and putting it through the filter and making it funny. You can take the sting out of some really, really hurtful things if you can find a way to laugh at it, and it's not a way to diminish the pain or real tragedy. It's just the way I process things."
Aaron Aryanpur will celebrate the release of his new album with a special show tonight at 9 p.m. at the Backdoor Comedy Club located in the DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel's Campbell Centre at 8250 N. Central Expressway. Visit backdoorcomedy.com for tickets, $14, and show information.
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